Ignorance is bliss
... what a way to go!
from Lillian Campbell
What a wonderful summer 1954 was for me. After lots of pleading and promises my
mother finally agreed to let me go to the University of Maryland for six weeks of
summer studies. I was so excited given it would be the first time I was allowed
to travel out-of-state alone! My friends, Joan and Bob, volunteered to drive me
to College Park, Maryland and when we arrived at the main entrance of the
University we were in awe of the beautiful campus we saw before us. I had a
challenging curriculum before me for the next several weeks: earning a life
saver’s certificate, studying world history with a professor who wrote the text
we would be using (some of his former students warned me how he even included
questions about footnotes on his exams -- and he DID!) plus another course which
memory fails me to recall.
The summer flew by with the excitement of new friends, new places to visit,
conquering the game of tennis along with the challenge of trying to earn a life
saver’s certificate as well as mastering all I needed to remember to pass with a
good grade the exams our eminent professor created for us. Before I knew it, it
was time to say “good-bye” to the summer I would never forget. Since my friends
weren’t able to return to College Park for a return trip to New York it was
decided that I take my first plane trip home! How many wonderful experiences
could be happening to me in just a few short weeks?!!?
Arrangements were made with a commercial airliner. Walking across the field to
board the plane for my evening flight I felt a little anxious but full of
anticipation. I was wearing my linen suit and high heels since it was important
that I look my very best on my first flight. The weather was warm and balmy.
Everything was set for a beautiful flight from Washington, D.C. to New York.
Sitting by the window was a wish come true for me and I couldn’t wait for take-
off. After our stewardess recited the safety precautions she walked down the
aisle to check we all had our safety belts then the engines finally revved up. I
was so excited I could hardly sit still. After taxiing down the runway the
experience of lift-off gave me chills and a thrill I’d never had before. This was
just great; maybe I’ll learn to fly myself kept running through my head. Finally
I began to relax in my seat and began to talk with the passenger beside me. Then,
all of a sudden there was a bright flash followed by a giant boom sound, and a
slight vibration of the plane. I heard a few gasps and a baby crying. Wow! a
thunderstorm. Whoa, there’s another flash! The sky looked so gorgeous. This is
great I thought; how exciting. The stewardess announced that all passengers
needed to have their seat belts on. Some of the passengers around me were getting
restless with lots of shifting in their seats. It didn’t sound or look that they
were enjoying nature’s fantastic show as much as I was. The thunderstorm lasted
for quite a while with the plane dipping and shuddering a few times but that only
added to the excitement. The captain came on the loud speaker and told us to
remain calm that we were on the approach to LaGuardia Airport. Remain “calm” why
this was really something! Just wait until I tell Mom all about it!
The storm was over as we approached LaGuardia for our landing and I can honestly
say I was truly sorry to have this first flight of mine come to an end. What a
great way to finish my summer!
As I descended from the plane I nearly ran into my mother’s arms brimming over
with excitement over what I’d just experienced. I couldn’t wait to share.
Instead, I was astounded to see Mom with tears streaming down her face repeating
over and over how thankful she was that I was home safely. “How frightened you
must have been, Lillian, in that awful storm while you were up in the air!”
Somehow I thought that at that moment it might be wiser for me to stay quiet
telling her later what a memorable experience my first flight was. (When I did
tell her she had the oddest expression on her face -- like I was looney toons for
February 4, 2011